It’s a competitive industry and everyone would like to maximise the creativity allowed by their budget. Television drama requires, not only room sets and spaces, but also, very often set pieces, fittings furniture and large props to be made, particularly for period productions. The obvious target for cost cutting has generally been the daily rate of freelancers, either by taking on PAYE workers in larger numbers than more expensive but highly talented freelancers, or by asking slighlty less talented freelancers to work for less than the going rate.
Both of these approaches have far reaching implications to quality and the sustainability of the industry.
Firstly, a larger less skilled workforce, requires greater lead time to carry out work on unique designs, they will need considerable supervision and meticulous drawings.
They will contribute very little by way of imagination to the work, as is unfortunately generally the way with those who clock on and off for lower wages. If you need a large run of items, it is in fact more cost effective under these conditions but how often does that happen in a creative industry like this?
This is not to say one cannot employ those same talented people on a full time basis for a decent wage, though this rarely happens.
Secondly, the skilled, talentd and experienced freelancer, does not have a trust fund and so the loss of earning ability in the film & TV industry leaves them with a choice…
To carry on for the love of it, having fewer days work than they need to live to the standards they find accaptable or to take those skills and talent and move to another industry, where they might be appreciated.
It has taken very many decades to create this countries great practical film skill base.
It will not take so many of them to destroy it.
People don’t want to see cheaper looking sets on X-Men or Captain America or Downton Abbey, they want to see bigger and better sets, they want us, the film & TV industry, to strive to perfect our craft, the way we always have done, since the film and TV industry first began.
Scores of American dramas with wonderful production values are flowing out into the English speaking world, to be countered on this side of the Atlantic by shoddy reality shows and a few notable period dramas.
When successful dramas find their Art Department and construction budgets squeezed on the second years run, it is difficult to provide a level of design, that can hold audience attention.
In a more pressured work environment, the better the crew around you, the better it goes.